Daniel Caesar is loved.
At least that’s what the crowd at Place Bell yelled to him at every opportune lull throughout the crooner’s set last Tuesday night.
Despite some trying to ‘cancel’ the singer in the earlier part of 2019 for his defense of controversial comments made against African-Americans, Caesar had no problem drawing in a massive audience on the first snowfall of the season. Fresh off the summer release of his second studio album, CASE STUDY 01, the Ontario native was back in Laval on his tour of the same name.
The R&B artist rose in popularity following the positive reception surrounding his debut studio album, Freudian, that was nominated in the Best R&B Album category at the 2018 Grammy Awards. The album also featured his nominated singles “Get You” featuring Kali Uchis and “Best Part” featuring H.E.R.
The show’s set was simplistic, with a full band playing behind a pair of transparent curtains and two vocalists on either side of Caesar. The visuals featured juxtaposed videos of aesthetics pertinent to the songs being played, like strippers pole dancing to “Who Hurt You?” and a dancing Kali Uchis for her “Get You” feature.
Caesar played most of his new album – one more experimental in nature than the gospel-centric Freudian. This allowed him to show off his vocal range that was raw at its core and was accompanied by little, if any, of his own backing track vocals – a breath of fresh air as a concert-goer in a hip hop and R&B era that seems to be dominated by lip-syncing and laziness on stage.
Three songs in, Caesar brought out fellow Torontonian Sean Leon. The crowd’s initial reaction was weak, perhaps not recognizing the guest on-stage. Yet, once the two dove into their collaboration track “RESTORE THE FEELING,” the audience piped up and clapped for the stranger in front of them. Leon thanked the crowd for his first performance in Montreal and the two artists gave each other a loving embrace before Leon exited the stage.
Caesar’s trifecta of “OPEN UP,” “Who Hurt You?” and “ARE YOU OK?” truly highlighted his voice and musical capabilities. The latter did not have any accompanying background instruments – only Caesar and his guitar. He frequently rotated between acoustic ballads and R&B melodies throughout.
The most well-received songs were undoubtedly those from his first album, whether this was due to the fact that they are the best in Caesar’s catalogue or that the crowd was reminiscing on the previous times he’s performed in Montreal over the last few years. The highlight was undoubtedly “Best Part,” of which the audience took over the whole first two and a half verses before Caesar even stepped towards the microphone.
Caesar finished off the night with “SUPERSTITION,” a personal favourite on the album and the perfect closer for an intimate night. After thanking the crowd for a lovely evening and wishing them a safe drive home in the snow, the chants brought him back on stage for one more song. Caesar ended with “Japanese Denim,” one of the first singles from his impressive repertoire and left attendees reminded of his earlier catalogue before the breakthrough success.
Photo by @Villedepluie